As a Type 1 diabetic, I did not enjoy being pregnant at all. Although it was something we had looked forward to as a couple it was a stressful time as I had to test my blood sugar before each meal time and then again an hour after I had eaten and record the results.
I was constantly thinking and worrying about my blood sugar levels, adjusting my insulin injection dosages, being careful about what I ate and when I ate it and also dealing with frequent hypos during the night. To prevent these I had to set my alarm for 3 am every night to test my blood sugar – all this sucked any joy out of the experience and robed me of any excitement. I attended the diabetic antenatal clinic every other week, where the Consultants drummed into me how necessary it was for good control. It became an obsession, as I wanted to give my baby the best chance of not developing complications or having to have a cesarean delivery (as diabetics usually have bigger babies).
The hard work of keeping my blood sugar under tight control paid off and I had a natural birth, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy weighing 6lb 12 oz. As I looked at him I couldn’t believe he was ours, as I had always had a nagging doubt in my mind that I would never be blessed with children – I was overjoyed! My husband and I loved him so much.
Unfortunately after the initial mad rush of visitors and after my husband returned to work I started to really struggle. I felt very alone, we had moved house just 3 months before I had my baby son. I had been used to working during the day and being out most nights in the week. So to suddenly go to being stuck in the house all day and every evening, with no family or close friends nearby and with my husband working most evenings was a severe shock to the system. I felt trapped, in a pit with no-way out! I was exhausted, worn out and in the depth of despair.
My husband was very supportive and took turns feeding our son, cooking, making up bottles, shopping and doing all he could to make my life easier but nothing helped me to feel better. My previously good diabetes control had gone out the window – after being so good for so long I was enjoying the freedom of eating what I wanted and the resulting high blood sugars unknowingly robed me of my energy. I comfort ate continually, as I felt like I had earned a ‘treat’ when my son went down for a sleep and I began to feel insecure if the fridge wasn’t full!
Each day dragged slowly by, if I did make the effort to go out I usually had to travel to visit friends or family. I did feel a bit better being out but when I stepped back over the threshold of the front door, the four walls quickly closed in back around me again. I couldn’t cope in a world which to me seemed to only consist of feeding and changing nappies.
As the weeks went by I felt like I was falling deeper into the dark pit. I was trying my best to keep up appearances with people. I felt I had to put on a plastic smile when I forced myself to leave the house. But each morning in the shower, with no-one around, I let the tears flow, it was the only place I could let it all out. I felt trapped with no way out.
I went to a friend’s house one day and for the first time I hinted that I was struggling with life, I was surprised when she shared her story of PND and urged me to go to the doctors. It was a great relief to hear that someone else had felt similar feelings to me. But in the weeks that followed I kept thinking to myself “I don’t need to go, I will feel better next week” but unfortunately I didn’t. So, after a number of weeks of telling myself this, my husband finally convinced me to go to the doctors.
Within a few minutes of entering the doctor’s surgery I burst into tears when I awkwardly tried to put into words how awful I felt. The doctor reassured me that how I was feeling would pass, I was put onto medication and she said she wanted to see me again in a few weeks. I was sceptical that the medication would help but after a while I did feel like there was small glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel I had been in. I began to sing one day as I carried my baby down the stairs, my husband heard me and passed comment that I must be feeling a wee bit better. It was definitely a memorable turning point!
It was coming into Spring and the weather was improving so I was able to get out a bit more for walks with the pram which helped lift my mood a bit. I did open up to a few people about my condition but I always regretted it as no-one ever understood how I was feeling as they hadn’t experienced it. People kept telling me how fortunate I was to have a loving husband and a healthy baby boy and that I had no reason to feel down. I used to think to myself, life would be so much easier if I could paint a sign on my back saying ‘leave me alone, you don’t know how awful I feel’.
I am so thankful, that with regular doctor’s appointments, and after time on the medication my health improved and my ‘old self’ came back – I was able to enjoy caring for my baby son.
A number of years later when my second son was born, I did suffer again from PND but this time I was aware of the symptoms and my husband was even more aware! He convinced me early on to seek medical help and I am so thankful to him for doing so, as the PND journey was less painful and much shorter the second time around having had an early diagnosis.
Thank you, Donna, for sharing your story. If you are also struggling, please don't do so alone. Speak to a friend or family member, as Donna did and get help from your GP. There is hope and there is help - you too can recover. As always, feel free to get in touch with me if you'd like to chat!